Sheryl Sandberg thinks you don’t need a personal brand. Here's why she's wrong.

July 10, 2017 / by Ryan Gazdacka

iStock-532520587.jpgWhether you think you need it or not, everyone has a personal brand.

Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, mentioned in an interview (annotated below from The Next Web) that personal brands are not worth building:

If you think you are building your personal brand, please don’t. You don’t have a brand. Crest has a brand. Perrier has a brand. When I hear anyone talk about building their personal brands, I know that’s not right.

The reason it’s not right is that products are marketed. “This is sparkling water, it is one of my favorites. It is put in a bottle that I really like with packaging I really like.” But people are not that simple. We’re not packaged. And when we are packaged, we are ineffective and inauthentic. I don’t have a brand, but I do have a voice.

It is a voice that I used to help build a company. It is a voice that spoke out on women. It is a voice that sometimes gets things wrong. And it’s a voice I now use to talk about grief and try to break some of the isolation I felt. If you think you are building a personal brand, you will not have the career you want because you will not be authentic. Don’t package yourself. Just speak and speak honestly, with some data behind you.

Sandberg makes the point that products have a brand; that products are packaged, and people are not. She mentioned that she doesn’t have a brand, but she has a voice.

While it’s important to have a voice, in this context her voice is echoed by her large platform. People will pay more attention to a COO of a company than an intern. A voice and platform can and should be used to talk about your personal brand.

She said, “if you think you are building a personal brand, you will not have a career you want because you will not be authentic.” This quote assumes that if you have a brand, it must be fake. Sandberg believes that just by thinking about how you are perceived by others, you make yourself inauthentic.

But that’s not true. A strong personal brand must be genuine. To build your personal brand, you can’t be persuaded by outsiders. Your personal brand comes from you and only you. Figure out who you are and be that person every day.

Sandberg also seems to assume that your brand is defined solely by your career, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

You don’t belong to one job, one company or one industry for life. We are all people before and after we are employees – don’t limit your personal brand by only considering your work life and job skills. If anything, an authentic personal brand can help you land a job because it will help differentiate you from the competition.

Check out our blog about why personal branding matters.